QP Skills Shortage: Problem and Solutions

QP Skills Shortage: Problem and Solutions

Despite the opportunity provided by becoming a QP, the candidate pool is decreasing to dangerously low levels. The lack of Qualified Persons in the pharmaceutical industry is quickly becoming a well-known and chronic issue that is and will continue to impede on the procedural integrity of the drug development cycle. From Director of Quality to CEO, the effect of such a shortage is beginning to put drug batches at risk with the associated financial and reputational costs. Mitigating these risks is, of course, essential- and a conversation about longer-term solutions is required. But today, we focus on the two paths you can take.

There is a well-known skill shortage within the industry, both due to experiential requirements and training availability. The increased rate of retirement has also left the industry at risk, particularly as the time-consuming process of becoming a QP cannot keep up with demand for new talent. The lack of people taking the prerequisite qualifications for QP roles continues to impact the candidate pool available for the pharmaceutical/life sciences industry.

So, what is the real effect of this problem?

The result of this shortage is even greater demand for the candidates available, and QP roles are seeing exponential salary growth. In a sector with some of the highest ethical standards, there are, of course, additional incentives other than simply financial considerations. However, candidate drop-out rates from the offer stage are rising as competitors outbid each other. The offer of an even more appealing salary can be difficult to ignore – with no legal obligations and six-month notice periods, the risks are increasing.

Two proposed solutions for the QP shortage:

  1. Employ interims for projects: Working with contractors far in advance ensures that there is talent readily available for your projects throughout the process and pre-empts the inevitable need for an interim further into the drug development as the need for QPs continues to grow. This provides flexibility, offers of strategic and quick responses, and is cost-effective (especially when compared to drug batch delays).
  2. This leads onto the second solution to reduce the chronic issue of a lack of QPs: making the role as desirable as possible with a competitive salary offer and package, incentivising people to commit to this career. Naturally, the people doing these jobs are working hard because they care about their work – but a little monetary encouragement only helps. Salaries are increasing by over 20% but this must be weighed against the cost of medicines being lost due to delays originating from too few QPs involved in projects. Supply disruptions in the UK are causing medicine shortages, and wasted materials. We have seen our clients struggling with this issue more now than ever, with 30% of life science employers feeling there are too few applicants in the industry.

It is worth considering a bigger picture discussion about how to encourage people to commit themselves to Qualified Person training and qualifications. The experience required for these roles is widely known to be extensive, and the educational background similarly, due to the high-pressure nature of such a job. The aspect of personal responsibility within these roles should be utilised in order to demonstrate the importance of the work carried out by QPs and those considering training. Becoming a QP could be understood as an even more aspirational career through changes to the industry. Establishing a better application process and considering why young people aren’t embarking on the kinds of qualifications central to these roles could set a long-term solution into motion to improve the current situation.

In short, there’s no steadfast way to solve this issue overnight but getting started is important, and there’s no better time than the present to make great adaptations to the industry. The two solutions that we can work with first and foremost are to utilise the employment of interims, and to consider increased salaries, in order to counteract the risks imposed by the QP skill shortage, and its’ effect on the drug development cycle and public release.